Saturday, February 7, 2009


I'm preparing to travel, again. Travel and I have a tortured relationship: when I was very young, I used to plan elaborate trips using National Geographic and a battered atlas. When I came to a place where a page was torn, I would fabricate roads, rivers, tiny towns drizzled like fudge sauce over the snowy sweetness of imaginary land. I was obsessed with islands. I wanted -viscerally, with a strength I couldn't muster for dessert or Disney World- to drive to Alaska.

Now I bend over backwards to avoid leaving home. I'm terrified of flying. If I have to drive somewhere, anywhere, I often conclude it's not worth it. I've dodged workshops, weddings, visits to relatives, and countless social events. I still haven't figured out why I recently declined a Fulbright, but every now and then I hope it wasn't because I dreaded the transatlantic flight.

I'm packing my bags next week: IN-DE-WA-IN-IL-IN. I made the arrangements far enough in advance that the trip seemed like a glorious adventure; now, of course, it's a slavering, beady-eyed Tyrannosaurus Rex stumping over the horizon. As I steel myself, struggling to hold still like a patient anticipating the plunge of the hypodermic, I goggle at the disconnect. Why do I want to travel; why do I loathe it?

A thousand reasons, of course. Of which here's one: sometimes I think we've corrupted travel. Now it's about hopping a flight, or merging into a vast river of traffic. It's about moving yourself as opposed to being moved. You navigate through a city, to a hotel, up the mountains, over the channel, across the Atlantic -propelling yourself forward in a cloud of prepositions.

Possibly travel should be about stillness. Staring out the window of the train; flat on your back in a strange bed; listening to weather. Feeling where you are on the map.

1 comment:

MoJo said...

WA? Is that a WA for Washington state? I live in Washington! When and where are you going to be here? Maybe we could meet up somewhere. We can share stories about avoiding travel - I wasn't even brave enough to apply for a Fulbright, because I knew I wouldn't be able to stand being away from home for that long. And now I'm in the process of applying for funding to go to Wales, which is really essential if I'm going to write a decent dissertation, and the trans-continental+trans-atlantic flight is horrifying....